Al Qaeda's Clown College


Daniel Byman and Christine Fair reveal "the quiet truth" about jihadists: while their "leaders and recruiters can be lethally subtle and manipulative," the foot soldiers are often "foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable." After offering a bunch of examples—along with an aside exploring the purportedly pious fighters' appetite for porn and bestiality—the writers conclude:

Current U.S. public diplomacy centers on selling America to the Muslim world, but we should also work to undermine some of the myths built up around our enemies by highlighting their incompetence, their moral failings, and their embarrassing antics. Beyond changing how the Muslim world perceives terrorists, we can help ourselves make smarter counterterrorism choices by being more realistic about the profile and aptitude of would-be attackers. More and more, as we work to disrupt training efforts, the jihadists we face are likely to be poorly prepared, and while that won't always ensure a bungled attack, it suggests that terrorists are likely to select targets that are undefended and easy to hit. The United States has spent billions on port security since 9/11, even though terrorists have shown little interest in ports as targets and even less ability to actually strike them. In contrast, even small investments in training for police and airport-security personnel can make a big difference, as these are the people most likely to encounter–and have a chance to disrupt–an unskilled attacker.